By Jami Jones
Bringing truckers together behind a single cause is never easy. But, with Special Olympics, truckers come together from all over the world to back a deserving cause.
Since its inception, the World’s Largest Truck Convoy for Special Olympics has grown rapidly in popularity. And, not because truckers like sitting in long lines of traffic – they do that enough every day – it’s all because of the Special Olympians.
The convoy, now in it’s fourth year, hit some hitches this year when some states had to postpone because of the hurricanes. But on Nov. 13, truckers came together from literally around the world. At the Florida State Fairgrounds, they met to stage that state’s part in the convoy with more than 165 trucks.
This year’s Florida convoy had a bit of international flair, proving just how passionate truckers are for Special Olympics. OOIDA member Eric “Taz” Whiting was flown in for the event from Iraq by Kellogg, Brown & Root.
Whiting has been working as a truck driver for KBR since the first of the year. He had originally planned his R&R for September so he could come home to participate in the Florida convoy.
But when the hurricanes forced the postponement of the convoy, his plans were washed out too. Whiting was bummed out, to say the least.
He was talking to some of the other truckers working for KBR in Iraq and one offered up a suggestion.
“I felt like I couldn’t participate because I was so far away,” Whiting said. “Then someone said to send a check and participate that way.”
Whiting decided to take it a step further. He wanted to raise money for a donation to Special Olympics from all the drivers working in Iraq and Kuwait.
“I approached management with my idea and asked if I could carry it out,” Whiting said. “They embraced the idea.”
Whiting went into Kuwait and purchased some clear plastic containers to put money in and taped on fliers that Cpl. Norm Schneiderhan of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department had made. He placed some of the containers at stops in Kuwait and took some back to his own camp.
“We got it going, and it snowballed into something bigger,” Whiting said with a laugh.
The snowball effect led to approximately $2,500 in donations from the drivers and another $7,500 in donations from KBR. The $10,000 total donation was then hand-delivered to Schneiderhan at the convoy when KBR flew Whiting home to Florida, all expenses paid, just to present the check and participate in the convoy.
Whiting was able to join in the fun with his stateside brothers and sisters who were treated to barbecued ribs and chicken, along with all the fixings, courtesy of Albertsons, the night before the convoy at “Family Night.” Jack Kapanka, of “America Moves by Truck” fame, sang for the crowd.
“We raised about $35,000 this year,” Schneiderhan said. “It was really good considering the hurricanes that set us back.”
Schneiderhan, while wanting to bask in the glow of this year’s convoy, was already looking forward to 2005.
“We’ll have more than 600 trucks next year,” Schneiderhan said.